Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
These premium colleges and universities seem to be so out-of-touch with the lower class students that they're not recruiting successfully. I grew up in a small town full of middle- and lower-class working folk, something those coastal elitists like to call "flyover country." Part of the problem is that education for a lot of people that might be in the classes that they'd want -- the kind that are in the Pell grant-receiving brackets -- view education as a much more practical venture. They want to earn a degree that will take them the furthest without breaking the bank.
Friday, April 25, 2008
The persistence of pay discrimination could not come at a worse time for young women. Students today are graduating with more and more loans. According to the College Board’s “2007 Trends in College Pricing” study, the costs of four-year public universities increased by 4.4 percent more than inflation per year over the last decade, while four-year private universities increased by 2.9 percent more than inflation per year over the same period of time. Often students are forced to offset the rising cost of tuition with more student loans. The average student today graduates with roughly $19,000 of student debt—that’s more than most down payments for a house.Read the whole thing here.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Furthermore, what's frustrating is that people tend to assume the opposite is true as well: women=feminists. Some of the most sexist language I've heard has come from women out there. There's a tendency to call issues that feminists support "women's issues" as if it's a male versus female battle out there.
In fact, if feminists really want to advance their causes, they really need male feminists. By making feminism something for everyone, as bell hooks said, then we actually have a hope of a united front for pay equality, equality in child care and household politics, and a whole host of other issues.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Joshua Micah Marshall (the man behind Talking Points Memo); Eric Alterman, the Nation columnist, author of many books, and blogger for Media Matters for America; Ezra Klein (The American Prospect); Kevin Drum (the Washington Monthly); Glenn Greenwald (Salon); Matthew Yglesias (the Atlantic); Bob Somerby (the Daily Howler); Rick Perlstein (the Campaign for America's Future); and the writer who goes by the name of Digby who blogs for her own website, digbysblog. I think of Paul Krugman and Harold Meyerson as two of the spiritual godfathers of this kind of politics.is made up entirely (with one exception) of white men. Um, how can the "new" new left be a monolithic group in the same way the old one was?
At Columbia, though, the fabulous NuvaRing (a vaginal ring that contains hormones released continuously throughout the month) will drop from $40 to $20 over the summer and regular oral hormonal contraception co-payments will drop from $10 to $5 a month. Thanks to the pressure of a coalition of student groups, birth control at Columbia is once again affordable to students.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Today is also Equal Pay Day, a day that highlights the fact that equal pay still doesn't exist. Via Firedoglake, below is a video produced by Alliance for Justice that shows Lilly Ledbetter speaking out about pay discrimination in her own words (and narrated by Josh Lyman, er Bradly Whitford).
Monday, April 21, 2008
- About two-thirds of young people believe they have as much or more influence on the presidential election as other generations. Of those, 31 percent believed they had more influence.
- The economy now takes place as the number one issue young people are concerned about. The breakdown of issues is as follows: 22 percent said the economy was the number one issue, 13 percent said the Iraq War, 6 percent said education, 5 percent said the environment, and 5 percent said health care. About two-thirds of young people also think they have a fair or poor chance with job prospects.
- Young people overwhelmingly (34 percent) listed economic problems as the number one problem that needs to be addressed in the next 20 years. The next biggest group (18 percent) listed the environment as the biggest problem to be addressed in the next 20 years. Interestingly enough, they can both be tackled by investing in green jobs.
- Sixty-five percent of respondents said the coverage of the presidential race as focused too much on race and gender. Young people want to talk about issues.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
The reason this is such a hot issue now is because the Supreme Court ruled against Lilly Ledbetter last year in a lawsuit against her employer Goodyear. They determined that her complaint had been filed after the appropriate time (in her state, 180 days) and the Supreme Court not only said she lost her right to sue after that period of time, but she also lost her award of back pay. The problem is, of course, that she didn't even realize that she was getting paid less than her male peers until after the time period had expired. Furthermore an initial pay discrimination decision can compound over time and cause an extreme disparity after years in the workforce.
Thankfully, there's legislation that that has been proposed in both the House and the Senate called the The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (the Senate is expected to vote on a version of the bill next week) that would, among other things would allow the time period to be counted from the last paycheck and not from the time the pay decision was made and take pension payments into account. Other versions of the bill attempt to increase pay transparency in ways that would still protect privacy.
My main fear with pay discrimination is that we've been locked in this kind of pay gap for decades. People are beginning to think that there's nothing that can be done, that that's just the way things are. The simple fact of the matter is that there are many reasons why women make less money than men, and it isn't as straightforward as the blatant sexism that Ledbetter experienced. (And when I saw her testify before George Miller's committee last year she told some stories that were truly terrifying.)
- Women tend not to ask for more money or don't ask for as much as men. Generally, they're more cautious about negotiating their salaries.
- Promotions tend to be more infrequent for women, sometimes due to taking time off for child bearing or child care.
- Women who don't have higher education tend to fill lower paying jobs (hairdresser, administration) than men without higher education do (construction work, auto mechanic).
- Women wait for evaluations with specific guidelines and expectations they might exceed before asking for a raise, while men tend to ask for more when they feel they "deserve" it.
- The subtle sexism that men who network with each other in a personal way by talking about sports or dating. Women tend not to be part of those conversations as often.
Young women in colleges especially don't tend to think of pay discrimination in such ways. College is an environment where the guidelines are pretty clear, and young women tend to make up the ranks of the highest-achieving students. Young women tend to assume, as I did, that their hard work would earn them the fair pay they deserved. It's more complicated than that.
UPDATE: Here's the piece I wrote for TAP last year about the Ledbetter case.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Great. As if college graduates don't panic enough during their job search.
But it turns out Rowling likes Vander Ark's website, something the middle school librarian created as a companion site over the years. It's just that Rowling is concerned that the Lexicon could compete with her own forthcoming Harry Potter encyclopedia.
At this point, Rowling's creation has become to big for her to control. Harry Potter has become part of global culture. Clearly she has chosen to pick and choose which "copyright violations" she will go after -- and this one was targeted because it directly competed with something she herself planned to sell.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
The U.N. estimates that the amount of corn it takes to fill a 50-liter car tank with ethanol is enough to feed a child for an entire year.I'm having a hard time finding the report online and am not sure exactly what the original UN report said (probably something along the lines of the resources used to grow corn for a take of gas could be used to grow food for a child for a year), but it's certain that that corn used to make ethanol is NOT the same corn that you would feed a child. Furthermore, a lot of liberals aren't such big fans of ethanol anyway. Even the most moderate tend to view biofuels like ethanol as a temporary solution and not a permanent one.
Thomas Friedman wrote the now-famous "Generation Q" column for the New York Times. Instead of trying to inspire a new generation to political action, he spent the entire column attacking us for lazing on the couch and plugging iPod buds into our ears. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers think because they don't see an exact replication of what they did when they were young, something must be drastically, desperately wrong.
Sen didn't stop to think that this generation isn't a monolithic group. Since she left out details about the intern, I can't speak for him, but I tend to doubt young activists, organizers, or budding young media stars that pepper our generation feel disaffected. As for the rest of us, it's not hard to figure out why some of us feel frustrated: we're facing unprecedented piles of student loans, a failing economy that makes many college grads wonder if they'll ever find a job, and opposition to a war that shows no signs of stopping. Indeed, it's hard to deny that things are bad. But then, things are bad for everyone.
Furthermore, Sen claims little responsibility for what she ascribes to be disaffection. In fact, she even says, "[My intern's] program requires a mentor, and I was it." It's an attitude of reluctance. In fact, until recently, progressives have been largely unwilling to pay much attention to young people. Thanks to "Generation Me" of which Sen is a part, young people have mostly gotten to where they are today without any real form of mentorship at any real level. This is a trend I've noticed in the generational divide among feminists. There are young women that are willing to take up the label and the cause, but instead of getting praise and mentorship from second-wave feminists, they are often attacked for their choice of lifestyle, profession, or even presidential candidate.
But the reality is that despite the debtloads, poor economy, and lack of mentorship, young people are doing good. I work for an organization called Campus Progress that works for this sole purpose -- to give resources to young people that want to work on making a difference. There are superdelegates that can't even drink legally yet, and young media stars like many of the people that I know here in D.C. We're hard at work making sure college loans ratchet down to affordability, getting other young people to vote in the upcoming election, and starting multi-billion dollar websites like Facebook.
So perhaps I should open a letter back up to those that are in the upper brackets of the generation groups. Instead of whining about how we don't do anything, why don't you open your eyes and give us a hand on what we're already working on?
*I originally referred to Sen as a he. My sincere apologies for the error.
Now, I'm no economist, but it seems the incentives are set up all wrong. If the IRS really wants people to file electronically, they should make filing electronically free. The main reason I didn't file my returns electronically was because you have to pay an additional fee -- and that's after I bought the tax program for dummies. I agree that e-filing is faster, more searchable, and more environmentally friendly, but then the IRS needs to re-evaluate its incentive system.
"We have, frankly, billions of pieces of paper that get put in the backs of large semi- trucks and rolled up to IRS facilities," said David Williams, IRS' director of electronic tax administration. "And we've got to keep track of it all. And so when people file right there at the end of the filing season, it takes us a lot more time to get through and make sure that we've done the right thing with their tax return."The IRS now hopes to reach the 80 percent threshold by 2012. There are a number of obstacles to that, including fees for electronic filing, and taxpayer concerns about dealing with third-party processors.
Today over at RH Reality Check, Eleanor Bader has a piece about the "Choose Life" license plates I saw in Florida last week. They're supposed to be a fundraiser for women who choose adoption instead of abortion, but instead:
[M]oney collected by the DMV has been accumulating far faster than it is being spent. "In Marion County, we get $30,000 a year which is distributed to qualified agencies that promote, support or enhance adoption services," [Publicity Coordinator for Choose Life, Inc. Russ] Amerling continues. "There is no paperwork, no contract signing. The county auditor goes in every year and confirms that the money is being used in accordance with the statute. That's it. In other counties it's not like that. Many county commissioners don't distribute the money because there is so much red tape that agencies don't even apply for it. It's too burdensome. The funds are not being spent because barriers are being erected that keep it from being spent."
This means that the money raised by Florida's sale of Choose Life license plates isn't doing what its promoters say it is -- helping women place their babies with adoptive families. Instead, the funds -- approximately $200,000 according to news-press.com -- languish in state bank accounts.
Because the spending is so restrictive, by only spending on adoption rather than health care, diapers, or other necessities women who choose to have children and keep them may need, the funds aren't spent properly. Shocking that women who have children would need such things. If you ask me, this is one of those cases of waste, fraud, and abuse that the right is always lamenting.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Because I was out of town for most of last week it took me a while to catch up on my reading. Via this article in the NYTimes, it seems that environmentalists and animal rights activists are going after ship speeds to reduce the death rate among whales:
Ships are one of the two leading causes of unnatural death among right whales, and scientists have warned that the unnatural death of even one breeding female has the potential to tip the species toward extinction. From 2002 to 2006, there were 17 confirmed deaths by ship strike, at least six involving adult females.It seems that a simple thing like reducing boat speed limits in areas where whales are known to travel could drastically reduce death among these animals.
In an effort to stop the fatalities, the National Marine Fisheries Service has tried to impose speed limits on ships within 30 miles of port. But the White House has delayed approval of the rule, which is opposed by some shipping companies.
The White House Office of Management and Budget is supposed to review federal agencies’ rule proposals within 90 days, with an optional 30-day extension. In the case of the right whale ship strike rule, it has been more than a year.
Firstly he cites Bob Dylan as a leader in the late 1960s protest music. Dylan is an interesting example, because while his lyrics can be widely interpreted as against the Vietnam War, Dylan himself (as I saw in the PBS mini-series No Direction Home) came off as rather apolitical. He wasn't into protesting and more or less blew off his co-performer and activist Joan Baez when she encouraged him to take part in war protests.
Secondly, there are two reasons why today's music isn't reflective of the war in the same way the late '60s and early '70s was. First of all, most popular singers and songwriters are largely unaffected by the war. The draft was active back in the days that McDonald talks about. Musical performers were just as much at risk as everyone else to getting drafted to fight in the war. Remember that even Elvis served a tour in Korea. Today, there are two different kinds of people serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, military contractors that are rewarded handsomely for their work, and the enlisted men and women that by and large come from lower-class, small-town America. That isn't to say these people aren't musically inclined, but when you're talking about corporate popular music, you tend to be talking about the wealthy.
But I'd argue that there is music that could be called protest music -- it just doesn't fit into the neat anti-war mold that McDonald outlines. Anyone who's seen Gunner Palace has heard some of the rhymes and heavy metal lyrics soldiers are composing that indicate exactly how fucked up the war in Iraq is. Obviously McDonald's never heard of the Hip Hop Caucus, and other black artists like M-1 who actively speak up against the war. Furthermore, some of the hip hop out there has been talking about the street wars for years. Sure, maybe when you look at the largely white, upper crust of the Billboard charts you may not see a lot of "protest music," but when you look closer, music about the war does exist.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Clifton Hicks, who was once suspected of being the author of TNR's disputed "Shock Troops" article, said, "None of us are here to make American soldiers look bad, because anyone in this room is capable of the same thing." Hicks blames the evil of war and not the individual troops. Many soldiers said they were still "pro-military" but opposed the Iraq war in particular. The opinions on pullout varied from immediately and as quickly as possible to a strategic and slow withdrawl. Unsurprisingly, the veterans aren't a monolithic group and don't have one opinion about the war.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Take Jamie Leigh Jones's case, for example. ... The first is the battle to have the perpetrators prosecuted in criminal court--which, because of Order 17, may be nearly impossible. According to the order, imposed by Paul Bremer, US defense contractors in Iraq cannot be prosecuted in the Iraqi criminal justice system. While they can technically be tried in US federal court, the Justice Department has shown no interest in prosecuting her case. In fact, for more than two years now, the DOJ has brought no criminal charges in the matter. Representative Ted Poe, a Texas Republican who has taken up Jones's cause, reports that federal agencies refuse to discuss the status of the investigation; meanwhile, in December, the DOJ refused to send a representative to the related Congressional hearing on the matter.Unfortunately, in the interest of "national security," women who sign up for military contract work end up signing away their right to a jury trial and end up trapped and unable to receive justice for such instances of assault. At what point is a corporate contract worth more than the physical and emotional safety of these women?
* Her name has been changed to protect her identity.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
A report released by Public Agenda today reports on bias and harassment on campus at Michigan State University, Columbia College, and UC-Berkeley. The thing is, though, that the survey had pretty poor methodology. The group of students who took the survey was a self-selected group that clicked on a Facebook ad. The study doesn’t actually measure incidents of harassment, but rather measures which groups students perceive are more likely to receive harassment. By examining these stereotypes, the survey concluded that it was “safer” to be a woman than to be gay. About 30 percent of respondents at the three schools thought was either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” for female students to be sexually harassed while closer to 50 percent (MSU 53 percent, Columbia 47 percent, Berkeley 38 percent) of students noted verbal or graffiti harassment toward students who identify as GLBT.
Furthermore, the survey found “on a more positive note, the findings indicate few students (16 percent) believe female students would be taken less seriously in the classroom because they are female.” This is a pretty common misconception in college because college campuses have mostly achieved gender parity and, excluding hard sciences, the gender parity even tips in the favor of young women on campus. I personally didn’t get what the big deal with sexism was because women routinely performed at the top of every one of my classes. Where the guidelines are clear, like in a grading system, women tend to exceed. It is where the guidelines become less clear, like in a professional work environment that the number of women, especially in leadership positions gets stuck at around 20-30 percent.
I’m all for advocating that campuses become safe spaces for minorities of all kinds, but this survey just doesn’t seem to be a reliable way to measure or prevent such harassment. What will help, in part, is if there is an increase in the reporting rate of incidents of harassment. As long as young people are afraid to report harassment, it may continue to persist. We need to ensure young people feel comfortable coming forward with reports of discrimination and harassment.